Study: Hands-free devices not as safe as some think

People who insist on using their cellphone while driving are at serious risk of becoming involved in a deadly car accident. More studies are being conducted into the risk of engaging in these dangerous activities and showing the importance of avoiding cellphone use while driving. One study in particular compared the distraction levels of hand-held cellphones compared to hands-free cellphones. While hands-free devices are marketed as being a safe alternative to using a hand-held cellphone, a study released by AAA shows that this may not always be the case.

The study looked at the amount of cognitive distraction generated by using a hands-free cellphone in comparison to a hand-held cellphone. Researchers measured participants brain activity, heart rate, response time and eye movement as they engaged in the following tasks:

  •          Talking with a passenger in the vehicle
  •          Operating a hand-held and hands-free device
  •          Composing an email using a voice-activated device
  •          Listening to the radio
  •          Listening to a book-on-tape

Interestingly enough, participants experienced only slightly less cognitive distraction when using the hands-free cellphone than they did using the hand-held device. The amount of distraction generated while using the hands-free cellphone was still enough to cause a car accident.

The National Safety Council explains that the brain cannot fully focus on two tasks at the same time. Rather, it flips between each task and, as a result, there are moments where the mind is not focused on the road at all. This type of cognitive distraction makes it hard for drivers to respond to bad weather conditions, other drivers, hazards in the road, traffic signals and pedestrian crosswalks.

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